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John Hollander: About
John Hollander is a Zurich based photo-realist artist and has had a long career in painting and illustration, and in recent years has turned his attention
to entirely digital representations based on his original photographs and drawings.
At first glance, his images look photographic but are in fact constructed digital environments based on his own keenly observed and collected visual references. Never professing to be a professional photographer, John has created a half-world of enticing high-resolution imagery blended with the surreal to tell a story that is entirely original. His images are capable of being produced in a large format to take you into his beautiful, strange, and thought-provoking world.
ATELIER has exclusive access to this selection of his personal images for reproduction to a wider audience.
"I was lucky enough to be sent to a school that had a very open-minded and encouraging art teacher. At the age of 15
I was allowed to travel to a local art class in Brighton to study life drawing, something that was unheard of by the other students. Consequently, I developed a portfolio that secured me a place at the West Surrey College of Art where for two years I absorbed all things artistic. My style then, as now, was figurative. I wrongly applied for a fine arts painting course at Norwich, which at the time was heavily into large abstract painting. My application was rejected and I gratefully accepted a place in Bristol to study Illustration. I had already seen how difficult and fickle the art market could be so I opted for something more commercial but always trying to utilize my drawing and painting skills.
Illustration at that time was used a great deal, from highly finished work for products to rough scribbles or layouts to sell ideas and concepts. Unused to the pressures of deadlines and the constraints of working to a budget things were tough to start with, but I relished the challenges offered to me and slowly found a way to support myself through my work.
A lot of my work at this time was not very interesting artistically, it did pay the rent but it also helped to improve my skillsets and develop a style for the future.
For seven years I worked in London as a freelance illustrator, changing studios and workspaces a few times along the way.
In 1980 I moved to Zurich, Switzerland with my wife and young family. Initially, we were planning to stay for a year but after a career spanning over 35 years, we are still here. In the beginning, I worked conventionally, pen, ink, airbrush, watercolour, gouache, oil, and acrylic.
Then, in the early 90’s everything radically changed. I had been reading in various design magazines about a new trend in computer graphics, I was totally fascinated and was convinced this was the future and the way forward. I started offering digital artwork to my clients and because realism was much sought after in the Swiss advertising world I could offer photographic compositions that were impossible to create pre-computer. This changed my illustrative style enormously but still necessitated using all my previously learned skills.
Next to my 2D work, vector illustration, and pixel painting I was becoming increasingly aware of the growing 3D world. This was new, fascinating, and exciting. Imagine being able to create any world that you wanted? All possible, but if I thought the learning curve was tough for 2D software the time, money, and level of concentration needed for 3D was
off the scale.
The clue is in the name, 3D - three dimensions. We are used to that in real life and we take it for granted, we don’t even think about it but on the computer, it has to be painstakingly constructed. No longer with 0’s and1’s luckily, but with sophisticated, well-designed interfaces that make life and creation easier. But the new 3D program is probably like comparing the dashboard of a Mini to the cockpit of a Jumbo jet, there are almost too many choices so understanding what is necessary is as important as if I were a paintbrush or composing and lighting a photograph.
It is a slow process. I have to first model the content, create the textures and materials, set the lighting and camera position, and render the final image at the appropriate size. Unlike painting in the normal sense I can change things, re-evaluate all aspects of the image, change colours, size, position, the feel of a material, how shiny or reflective, the strength of shadows, and so on. I love this process and having this much control, but have to be very careful not to
lose sight of the artistic message or image.
My creations might appear to be photographed but they are most decidedly not. They are just influenced by them. I have in a way recreated reality by choosing exactly what should appear in the final image.
I have always been interested and amazed by man’s creativity, and surely everything really was once just a dream.
Unfortunately, dreams fade and I find the results fascinating. These buildings and situations that I depict in my images are the aftermath of thousands of people working and living creating decay, dirt, filth, and also beauty.
Now they are suddenly gone, everything is eerily quiet, waiting, with the imprints of their passing.
John Hollander, Zurich 2021
UBS, Credit Suisse, Raiffeisen, Kantonalbank, BMW, Porsche, Audi, Mini, and Toyota. Other clients include Swissair, SBB Swiss national rail, Greenpeace, and other environmental agencies. Swiss Art Expo. Zurich 20
All my 3D modeling is mostly created in the following programs,
- Cinema 4D by Maxon
- Form Z by Pixelogic for complicated shapes using NURBS technology
-ZBrush for organic modeling and UV creation.
All texturing and rendering is created with:
- Adobe Illustrator. A vector program for producing clean, scalable graphics ideal for patterns, shapes or logos.
These files will be turned into pixels when brought into the 3D software.
- Adobe Photoshop. The de-facto software for compositing, retouching, or cleaning up images.
- Substance Painter and Substance Alchemist, now owned by Autodesk, for 3d painting with images and
- Quixel Mixer for tiling pattern creation. These are realtime 3D texture creation tools.
- Marmoset Toolbag for scene composition, lighting, and realtime rendering, global illumination, ambient occlusion,
fog, volumetric lighting and depth of field.